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October 2, 2014

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From Jack Bauer to Cylons, How Scripted Television Dealt With Sept. 11

by Maureen Ryan, posted Sep 9th 2011 12:30PM
Given the enormity of what occurred on Sept. 11, 2001, it was natural that many television writers would spend the next decade working out what it meant in the stories they told. But the shows that grappled most directly with what it meant to live in a post-9/11 world (and I examine those shows in a bit more depth below) sometimes had a difficult time wrestling with the moral and political complexities of the age while still telling a gripping story. Who knew that a show about killer robots would be one of the most successful shows to combine concerns about terrorism with satisfying character drama?

Of course, in the relatively immediate aftermath of the tragedy, many scripted television shows had episodes or moments that paid tribute to what occurred on Sept. 11, including 'NYPD Blue,' 'Third Watch' and 'The West Wing,' among many others (and almost a decade later, 'Fringe' depicted still-standing twin towers in one of its most memorable moments).

Others programs dwelled on our longing for reassurance in a chaotic world in more oblique ways. 'Lost,' after all, depicted a plane crash, a struggle for survival and the difficulty of sustaining relationships in extreme circumstances, and 'Jericho' took our fears about the state of our union and amplified them in a variety of ways.

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